A Special Thanksgiving

A Special Baptism: our family on the left; Howard's brother, Prince's family on the right

A Special Baptism: our family on the left–L-R: Barbara (Me), Howard holding Brian. Howard’s brother, Prince’s family on the right: Prince holding Kari Jo and Cleone on the end. Edward L. Beall, Sr. in the middle. Photo taken the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Farmington Presbyterian Church, Farmington, Missouri

Thanksgiving 1968 was a special one for us. Our son Brian was born August 6, 1968 in Louisville, Kentucky, and his cousin, Kari Jo, was born August 29, 1968 in Wichita, Kansas. We were all scheduled to make a migration to Farmington, Missouri for Thanksgiving that year. One reason? The babies were to be baptized by their grandfather, Rev. Edward L. Beall, Sr. in the Farmington Presbyterian Church. This would be Baby Brian’s first big trip!

Howard was teaching school. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and he was scheduled to be home by mid-afternoon. I spent the morning packing and making certain our dachshund Heidi was taken care of. Howard backed into the driveway–we loaded the car–and then we were on our way to Farmington by way of St. Louis. We were driving a 1967 VW Bug at the time, so we were certainly loaded down. Brian went to sleep, something for which I was grateful!

As I recall, it was cloudy–typical of a November day. We drove across southern Indiana and Illinois, and the rain began in one of those states. It rained lightly at first. I remember stopping at a restaurant somewhere in Illinois where I ordered my favorite breaded pork tenderloin sandwich and onion rings–something I generally don’t get outside of Missouri or Iowa. I laid Brian down in the booth beside me. He smiled at first. Then he decided that (a) he was in a strange place; (b) he was tired; (c) he was hungry–and he YELLED at the top of his lungs. Shoving the rest of the sandwich and onion rings down my throat, I bundled him up and went out to the car so the patrons could eat in peace! Wouldn’t you know it? He was sound asleep the minute I fed him. I sat inside the car, listening to the falling rain, wondering whether this was a foretaste of events that would happen.

And that’s when the drama began!

It was pouring down rain by the time we reached the Missouri River. And halfway across the bridge, our windshield wiper motor died right in the center of the bridge!

Talk about a frightening experience!

By some miracle, we made it across the bridge without incident. But we still had 60 miles to go. The rain was still pelting our car. There was no way we could drive 60 miles in the dark without windshield wipers! Howard called his father, who drove to St. Louis to pick us up. We left our car near a station and headed south to Farmington.

But the drama didn’t end there!

Just as we arrived at the house, Howard’s mother was leaving.

“I have to drive to Potosi!” she told us. “Prince and Cleone broke down there!”

Just then, the phone rang. Prince’s car finally started, so Mildred didn’t have to rescue them. We waited for them to arrive, talked for a while. And we all finally settled down to sleep.

But the drama didn’t end there!

When morning broke, the rain stopped–but it transformed into snow overnight leaving a sheet of ice on everything!

Howard’s brother, Ley, his wife Brenda, and their daughter Carmen were scheduled to fly into St. Louis from Kansas City, Missouri the next morning (Thanksgiving Day). Howard’s mother drove to St. Louis to pick them up, and Howard went with her. He wanted to retrieve his car in St. Louis since we didn’t want to walk back home to Kentucky! They checked on his car first, which was fine. Then they travelled to the airport where they waited–

–and waited–

–and waited.

Finally, they heard the announcement:

All flights from Kansas City have been cancelled!

The reason?

It seems that earlier that morning, a plane from Kansas City slid on ice on the runway in St. Louis. So they weren’t going to send any more of their planes to St. Louis unless and until the ice has been cleared. Now, I don’t know whether you are acquainted with the relationship between these two cities. There has always been a rivalry between them outside of opposing football teams. We lived in Kansas City in the 1960s before moving to Kentucky, and I remember how that rivalry was so pronounced. It may have moderated since then, but it was really strong at that time. I think it dated back to the Civil War. St. Louis regarded Kansas City as a haven for incorrigible outlaws and Kansas City regarded St. Louis as a haven for eastern Yankee snobs.

[Kansas City didn’t like Kansans (Jayhawkers) either in the 1960s. But that is another story].

“My kids were scheduled to fly in here!” my mother-in-law complained. “How are they supposed to get here?”

“Well, you’ll have to sit down and wait,” she was informed. “They are on their way–by bus!”


“I believe that’s the direct route.”

She called to update us on the situation.

“This isn’t fair!” she complained. “I want to be there in Farmington holding my babies, and I have to sit here in this stupid airport all day. Well–we’ll have Thanksgiving when we all get there!”

Six hours later, they all arrived. Howard followed them down in his car, relieved that it was finally safe in Farmington. And once they all stopped talking and settled down at the table–the Thanksgiving feast was tremendous. Everyone enjoyed both the food and the conversation!

Then, when the dishes were out of the way–

“Well, we have to celebrate Christmas!” my Mother-in-Law announced. “You’re all here now, and you won’t be here next month!”

So, out came the tree, the other decorations, and the music. Once the halls were appropriately decked, we had our gift exchange. It was probably after midnight again when we finally ran out of gas! I remember the touch football game in the yard the next day. Then Brenda, Ley and Carmen had to return to Kansas City since Ley had to be at work at TWA that evening.

Sunday was the day of the baptism, the event so conveniently worked into our Thanksgiving-Christmas celebration!

The baptism was a signature event. Howard’s Uncle MacPherson Beall (people called him Mac) and his family drove to Farmington from St. Louis for the occasion. And Clan Beall all descended upon the Farmington Presbyterian Church, sitting in the designated section for honored guests. My father-in-law had been minister at that church for several years, so the gathering was a quite an occasion. Then came the moment of the baptism. Brian’s parents (us) and Kari Jo’s parents (them) journeyed to the front with the babies in tow. What I remember most about the baptism is that Baby Brian recognized his Grandpa Beall and began his little chant: “Da-da-da-da-da-”

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost! Amen!”

We had to have another celebration after all of that!

The MacPherson Bealls went to the house in Farmington as did the rest of the Clan. We had another feast (Thanksgiving leftovers) and plenty of dinner table conversation. Beall table conversations generally turned to politics and other world events. In those days, the conversation focused on Richard Nixon (the newly elected President) and what he planned to do about ending that awful war (Vietnam)–and whether or not Howard’s cousin, Scott, would be called up for duty. He said he expected it; his wife said “No!” (He did serve as a medic. He retired several years ago after many years as a surgeon!)

Our return trip to Kentucky was without mishap or misadventure. Brian slept most of the way. The sun shone brightly and the roads were clear.

And our little dog Heidi was certainly glad to see us!


Decking the Halls

Christmas Poinsettia, 2014

Christmas Poinsettia, 2014

When I saw my pumpkins bouncing down the street in the high wind this morning, I dashed after them. Fortunately, I managed to catch them before they bounced out of my reach, and I returned them to the house. Instead of placing them on the porch again, I took them inside and stored them downstairs. And just before opening the front door, I grabbed the wreathe from the mailbox. It was about to take flight as well.

Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow. My pumpkins and wreathe were my outside Thanksgiving decorations. They didn’t make it until the holiday. I didn’t want to chase them to Kansas! The interior decorations are still in place. Gradually, I will start moving them downstairs through next week, replacing them with Christmas objects.

Now, if I could just get into the mood!

Christmas is coming, and I don’t feel like it. In the past, I always looked forward to Christmas.  It was my favorite holiday. Christmas almost slipped up on me this year without my realizing it!

2015 has been a year of challenges–the big one centering upon our son’s continued battle with cancer. He was declared cancer-free in May and two months later, his cancer was back. So he has spent the rest of the year undergoing chemo and other treatments fighting the disease. The doctor told him this was something he would have to fight the rest of his life. He has a particularly aggressive form of cancer.  I pray he receives a good report when he undergoes a scan in December.

Howard underwent his cancer treatments in February and March this spring consisting of five days a week for thirty-nine treatments. That was where we met our friend, Rex Swett. I’ve written about him previously. On Valentine’s Day, Rex and his wife appeared at the Cancer Center with small boxes of Valentine candy for everyone. I still have our Valentine boxes. The candy vanished long ago, thanks to the sweet tooth both of us have. I’m still trying to figure out a way to display those boxes. Rex passed away in August. But he became a good friend those short months we knew him. I believe that he knew he had only six months to live when he started his treatments at the center. His wife told me they were trying to think of all the unique things they could do over the next six months. One of his ideas was to take a train trip from east to west across Canada and end up on the West Coast. He didn’t get to do that, but he did make it to his State High School Basketball Hall of Fame Banquet in South Dakota in March. We got together in June for dinner. That is the last time I saw him.

As for me, I really have nothing to complain about. I just underwent my annual “wellness visit”, and it appears that I am fine. Everything seems to be functioning the way these body parts and organs are supposed to be functioning. So I will be writing this blog for a few more years.

I’ve had some wonderful successes with my Ancestry DNA matches. As of today, I think I have around 355. I’m also making headway on some illusive family lines. Finally got my mother’s Spence, Perry and Inman lines in shape! That took a year. Now I’m working on some of my father’s lines. I’m also in 22 DNA Circles. Looked at them today and noticed that membership in those circles is growing. Howard’s DNA matches are also blooming. I took my test last December, so I’ve been receiving matches for almost a year. Got a kit for Howard on Father’s Day, and he has almost caught up with me. But then, his surnames–Beall, Warfield, Polk, Dorsey, DeLashmutt, etc.–are popular. We did find out that we are connected on three lines: Beall, Gaither and Owings. So we are distant cousins.

And, hey! I ran into someone who connects with me on my Dad’s Cline line!  Just wrote an article on the Clines a few weeks ago, and now I have a DNA match on that line.  Also ran into someone with a match on the Drury line. So I’m getting there.

This blog has taken the place of writing books.  I like the format because as I make future discoveries, I can update the articles. I also have it indexed by the family line I’m writing about, and I have included other topics as well. I can also focus on different family groups from time to time rather than staying focused on just one.

So, this is basically our year to date.

Over the next few days, the interior Thanksgiving decorations will gradually disappear into boxes downstairs, and Christmas decorations will reappear from other boxes. As I put them in place, I will reflect on Christmases past. Perhaps I will add some of those memories to this blog in the form of a Christmas Past–Christmas Present–Christmas Future series.

Now that would get me into the spirit!




A Ship Without Weapons

William Gordon Spence (1918-1983) Taken in the 1940s. This photo hung on our wall for years.

William Gordon Spence (1918-1983) Taken in the 1940s. This photo hung on our wall for years.  His features favored my grandmother’s Hopper family.

The story I am about to tell happened a couple of years before I was born immediately after December 7, 1941. My mother’s brother, William Gordon Spence, was on a navy ship that had no weapons somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Had that ship been detected, it would have been destroyed and all those on board would have been killed.

From the Find-a-Grave Memorial I created and maintain for my uncle, William Gordon Spence was born December 30, 1918 in Neosho, Newton County, Missouri, and he died March 5, 1983 in San Francisco, California. The rest of the biography follows–much of which was taken from The Sterns Family History I found in my Grandmother’s photo album:

“William Gordon Spence was the only son of William Franklin Spence and Oda Elizabeth Hopper Spence. His two sisters were Elva Gail Spence Inman and Marian Elizabeth Spence Van Fossen. He moved with his family to Iowa about 1925 and lived in the town of Marian. He joined the U.S. Navy prior to World War II and made the Navy his career. On April 21, 1951, he married Veronica “Ronni” del Palacio/Anselmi in Los Angeles. Ronnie had two children by a previous marriage: Michele Anselmi Tarkington and Raymond Mario Anselmi. The Spences were based in Hawaii prior to relocation to San Francisco ca. 1955. They lived there the rest of their married lives. William Spence died in San Francisco on March 5, 1983 and is buried in the military section of Olivet Memorial Park Cemetery in Colma, California, (Grave 748)”(1). 

Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the ship my uncle was on. He joined the Navy during an isolationist period, and the ship did not have weapons. They were somewhere in the Pacific the day of the Pearl Harbor attack and knew they had to return to the mainland immediately. Since they had no weapons or any means of defense, they had cut all communications for fear of detection. All radio transmissions were silenced.

“And for two months, we didn’t know whether he was alive or dead,” my grandmother told me.

Then my grandparents received the news that the ship returned to California safely. Everyone on board was fine!

I can only imagine what those people on the ship and their families back home experienced while all of this was underway. I think the ship must have traveled north and moved mostly at night or through in intense fog and then made its way down the coast. At any rate, once the weapons were installed on the ship, it was sent out on duty again.

I heard this story when I was really small–late 1940s. And I heard it repeated by my parents and grandparents from time to time. I grew up wondering whether anyone else knew about that ship.

Fast forward to late 1990s.

Howard and I were living in Colorado. A friend of ours–a Navy veteran– lived with us at the time while he was going to school. He worked as a security guard at the local mall. One night, he came home with a movie he rented–some war picture I no longer remember.

“I heard the darndest story today!” he said as we turned on the movie. “I’ll tell you about it later.”

About halfway through the movie, I spoke up:

“This thing reminds me of a story I heard years ago about an uncle of mine. He was on a naval ship that had no weapons on it when Pearl Harbor exploded. They had to sneak back to the mainland, and for two months, my grandparents and parents didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. The ship returned safely, but what a harrowing experience!”

“You had a uncle on that ship?” our friend exclaimed.

“My mom’s brother!” I answered, surprised that anyone knew the story.

“I met a man at the mall today! He was on that same ship!”

So we forgot the movie and compared the two stories: my memory of my uncle’s experience and the man’s memories of the same experience on the same ship.

What a coincidence!



(1) William Gordon Spence Find-a-Grave Memorial No. 97969745. Find-a-Grave.com Website. Created: 29 Sep 2012. Date Accessed: 7 Nov 2015. Available online at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=97969745&ref=acom


My Mother’s Christmas Cactus




The first time I saw my mother’s Christmas cactus, it was standing in a pot beside her breezeway door. And she told me the story about it–how her friend had given her a start of the plant. The friend also told her she should keep the plant outside during the warm months and bring it inside in the fall.

“That’s the only way it will bloom,” the friend told her.

So Mom followed her friend’s instructions, and the plant bloomed beautifully over the holiday season.

The following Christmas, I received a picture of her plant covered with beautiful pink blooms. And her letter included a question:

“Would you like a start of this plant?”

Well, I guess so, I thought. I recalled all my episodes with the English Ivy I carried in my wedding bouquet. Mom rescued the sprig–rooted it–planted it–and had it thriving. The start she gave me did well while we were living in Missouri, but it failed miserably in ultra-dry Colorado. But I would be willing to give the Christmas cactus a try. And when we visited Iowa the following May, Mom gave me my start of the plant.

“Remember to keep it outside from April or May until late September,” she reminded me. “Otherwise, it won’t bloom.”

I’ve enjoyed my mother’s Christmas plant over the years. There have been a few calamities, however. One summer night about three years ago, I was awakened with a loud noise. The next morning, I found my plant all over the yard–the result of a battle between two cats who included the plant in their chaos. I had to reroot it and repot it. Amazingly, the plant survived. But after that experience, I kept it inside the house in the basement during those warm months. The plant didn’t like the basement at all. It did not bloom last Christmas. So now, it is outside once again from spring to fall. I also learned how to fertilize it. And this year, it is loaded with buds that will open by Christmas.

Since acquiring my mother’s plant, I have added two additional Christmas cacti to the collection. Howard gave me one about three years ago–a multi-colored variety. He found it in the grocery store–the last one on the shelf. They sold it to him for a dollar because they thought it wouldn’t live very long. He brought it home to me, and I worked my magic with it. It only produced white flowers previously. This year, it also began producing a coral flower with the white and is so full and beautiful.


Then yesterday I added my third cactus plant. Our super market had a variety of colors on sale, and Howard bought me a red one.


I will work my magic with it this spring.

My mother received her start of the original Christmas cactus years ago in the 1980s. We moved to Colorado in 1980, so I probably received my start from her in the late 1980s. I know I have had this plant a long time. And look at it now!

My mother must be smiling!

Remembering Ramsey and Shadow


Nine years ago today, our beloved Ramsey left us. He was born December 4, 1991, and he died November 25, 2005–so that would make him 14 years old. He was originally Debbie and Dee’s dog, and they acquired him from Dee’s cousin. Puppy Ramsey needed a home. Later, when Debbie and Dee moved into an apartment where pets were not allowed, Ramsey moved in with us. He became our dog the spring of 1992. So we had him about 13 years.

Part lab and part cocker spaniel, Ramsey had a black lab face and short cocker legs. He could run like the wind while chasing water sprays. And oh, did he love his ball! He was a wonderful dog!

Of course, he had to adjust to our black cat, Shadow, who had already lived in our house since 1985.

Shadow was born September 10, 1985 and he departed October 27, 1997. He originally belonged to a young couple– the husband, a rookie for the Denver Broncos that year. They had to travel a lot with the Broncos and felt sorry for the kitten when they were gone. So they were looking for a good home for him. Not only did Shadow move in with us just before Halloween that year, but he departed just before Halloween twelve years later.

Both pets looked like a couple of ink spots chasing one another throughout the house. A friend who spent some time with us later reported he heard those two racing after one another during the night. Not only did Shadow pester us about getting up in the morning, he often awakened Ramsey early–and the chase was on.

Their biggest tussle concerned the winter sun streaming through the front window and spreading across the floor. Ramsey would get there first. He would just get comfortable when Shadow would slide across the rug, swat him, and they would take off flying again. Perhaps the funniest thing I saw them do involved a swat Shadow gave Ramsey in the kitchen. Shadow had just awakened from his afternoon nap and entered the living room. He peered around the kitchen door in time to see the great black hulk drinking his water in the kitchen. I saw the ears go back–the crouching position–heard the whack–and the two of them were off flying again.

Ramsey didn’t know what to do with himself after Shadow died. We didn’t get another cat. And so Ramsey spent the rest of his days with us, getting older. He lost his vision before he died, and I’m sure he had cancer.

I remember the day we drove him to Boulder to have him put down. I rode in the back seat of the car with Ramsey, who was excited to be going somewhere even though he didn’t feel very well. The goodbyes were difficult. I grabbed him and held him for a while before Howard took him inside. It was one of the hardest things we had to do since Shadow died.

Shadow’s cremains are in a small container I keep downstairs. Ramsey was carried home inside the cover of his bed. I had to unzip the cover to retrieve his leash and collar. And then I remembered the treats and his ball I planned to place inside the cover with him. It wasn’t his favorite ball. Howard wanted to keep that, so he switched balls on me. I still have Ramsey’s favorite ball and am glad now that the switch was made. Ramsey was buried in one of his favorite places. We placed a concrete marker on his grave, and I later provided the inscription.

Today the marker has settled. The inscription vanished after several winters. I know where the grave is located and visit it from time to time. And I smile when I remember something.

Shortly after Ramsey was buried, I looked up toward the sky. Two seagulls flew overhead–one following the other.

Shadow and Ramsey! I thought. They can fly!

Time Travelers: A 50th Anniversary Celebration


Fifty years ago today when Howard and I stepped out of this church–we had no idea what was in store for us. We were married in the old Sinclair Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I remember it was a cool late April day and slightly windy. Shortly after this photo was taken, my veil flew straight up in the hair. Fortunately, it did not fly off my head!


We would have two wonderful children. Brian Scott Beall was born August 6, 1968 in Louisville, Kentucky.


Deborah Lee Beall was born January 12, 1971 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Our lives were filled with school–


–more school–


–more school–


–more school–


and finally–more school!


And just think–we did all of that schooling together and were able to pay for it ourselves with no bailout from our parents! The secret here is that we worked together using our own resources. And we paid it all off as we progressed through the levels.

Our children grew up and married. Brian and LuAn were married in their front yard March 9, 1991 in Broomfield, Colorado.


Debbie and Dee were married in our back yard August 22, 1992 in Broomfield, Colorado.


Today, we have a large group.


This photo was taken in 2005. Since then, we have more people who are not pictured here. Briefly–this is our family:


Brian, LuAn and Brandon. Brandon is all grown up now with three daughters of his own.


Dee took this photo of Debbie, their children, Josh’s girlfriend, and a younger cousin.


All in all, I would say these fifty years have been wonderful!

For a full picture show, please go to the following link:


Undecking the Halls


Christmas 2013! The sun is just beginning to rise, and I can tell that it is going to be a beautiful, sunny day. It is 25 degrees right now, with a projected high of 45. Needless to say, there is no snow on the ground. All of that melted quickly, but then most of our Christmases are dry here in Denver. I think it snowed in the mountains yesterday–but not here. Oh well–maybe next year.

Our celebrations with family have already taken place. We went to our son’s house on Monday (the 23rd) for a celebration there, where we saw some excited little girls who were thrilled with the dolls I gave them. Yesterday morning (Christmas Eve), we traveled to Littleton for a get-together with our daughter and her family. Traffic was very light as we headed down there, but really increased on our trip home.

Then, last night we did something we haven’t done in years: we went to a Christmas Eve service at the little Presbyterian Church we plan to join sometime in January. It was like going home again, something Thomas Wolf once said you are unable to do. We joined this little church over 30 years ago when we first moved to Colorado and were members there a couple of years. Then we began exploring and probably traveled full circuit before finding ourselves at the port of origin. For Howard, it is like returning to his roots. We was born and raised a Presbyterian. I was raised a Baptist but became a Presbyterian when I married Howard. And since we are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in the spring, it’s like returning to my roots as well. The service was beautiful, culiminating in the holding of small candles at the end during the singing of “Silent Night.” After the service, we drove around town and looked at the lights before heading home.

Now, it is Christmas morning, and all is quiet in the house. We are spending a peaceful day at home. I have planned our feast for later. We stopped at a super market on our way back from Littleton yesterday so I could get my annual grapefruit. I love grapefruit, but Howard doesn’t. And now experts are warning us we shouldn’t eat too many of them for whatever reason. I figure one grapefruit a year won’t harm me! In fact, I will really enjoy it. I don’t know whether we will watch a movie today, but we may find one later. So far, we’ve already seen “White Christmas”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and other favorites. Will wait until later and count that as a surprise.

Sitting here now in the quiet of this early Christmas morning, I become keenly aware of the fact that the time of undecking is upon us–the time when I take down the tinsel, holly and bells and put them all away for another year!

Undecking the halls is always as eventful as the decking of them, especially since I have increased the decorations over the last half century. Every year, I get something new in the way of decorations. The trick about undecking the halls entails putting all of this stuff away so I can retrieve it all without difficulty next year! No doubt I will begin the project inside the house and save the yard and front windows for last. It will take a week putting away all the interior items! By saving the yard and windows for last, I will have some of my display through New Year’s Day. Actually, this display has become like an old friend since it has been up since early November. I will miss it when it is all boxed away.

From our house to yours: have a very Merry Christmas 2013, and a wonderful New Year 2014. We wish the best for all of you.

Peering Through The Fog


An eerie fog greeted me when I awakened this morning and peered through my front window. Grabbing my camera, I scurried outside to photograph the event in 18-degree temperatures. My solar lights were still blinking. The fog obscured the fact it was daylight. I took the pictures quickly since it was cold, and then I dashed into the house where the warmth welcomed me. The fog is no stranger since I grew up in Iowa and lived in other parts of the Midwest. Mornings in Pennsylvania frequently began with fog the summers I spent there. Viewing the fog this morning reminded me of some of those classics.

I remember one November about 1973. I was working as a paraprofessional at the College Community School District on the edge of Cedar Rapids while attending Mount Mercy College. Being a paraprofessional sometimes entailed activities no one else wanted to do. I worked at Prairie High School, and the one and only copy machine was located in the junior high school across the way. The trek to the junior high required an adventure across the parking lot–definitely a nightmare when the fog engulfed it. Over the years, I have worked several places where one individual deemed my colleague always took it upon herself to be my boss. I can still remember the sweet smile on her face that morning as she said, “Would you mind running over to the Junior High and copying this?”

Ever taste a fog? I tasted it all the way across the parking lot that morning! It was so thick, I could not tell the direction I was going. Hopefully I wouldn’t end up in Iowa City. And if I took another turn, I would be in downtown Cedar Rapids. The return trip to the high school was no less adventurous. I can still feel that cold fog brushing against my face. Funny that I should remember all of that while photographing the fog this morning!

My favorite encounters with a fog occur when I’m inside watching it through the front window. Occasionally the fog matches my mood at such moments. I worked for an attorney in Cedar Rapids after graduating from high school in 1961, and I can remember one such encounter with a fog. It was a late September afternoon, and I was about to head out for home. I was the only one in the office at the time and had finished typing a number of documents. The office was located in the Higley Building in downtown Cedar Rapids, and we were on the 8th floor. When I carried the papers into the attorney’s office and placed them on his desk, my attention was suddenly drawn to the window. A heavy fog descended upon the town with street lights casting eerie shades of red up into its fingers. I stood there looking at it for a while, and then braced myself for the trek home.

The fog can be a friend sometimes when I’m in the mood. I enjoy walking in fogs when not being told to do so. At other moments, it becomes an audience when I am inside and focusing on other projects. It sometimes becomes an inspiration for my writing. I don’t mind walking in a fog, but I will not drive in one–too dangerous. Other drivers do not respect it.

Glancing through the window, I noticed the sky awakened and the sun broke through, making the fog a brief memory. One thing about fogs in Colorado–they arrive early and lift quickly–a phenomenon probably stemming from our lack of humidity here.

I glanced through the window one last time, wondering why our weather goes “wacky” a few days before Christmas, then only to change for the better and appear like spring on the holiday. Perhaps I shouldn’t complain. I have to admit I prefer a white Christmas. Some snow is falling in the mountains today–but with a forecast of 50 degrees by Tuesday and 49 Christmas Day, I don’t think we’re going to have it this year.

Stormy Weather


No, we don’t have this much snow this morning–but we do have cold temperatures and a light skiff. After several days of almost 70 degrees, my body needs to readjust to the change. 70 down to 19 is quite a plunge!

We live in the Denver area. Snow events aren’t all that common here around Christmas, although we have had some “big blasters” over the years. One of the most memorable events was the Blizzard of 1982. I was working for a law firm downtown at that time and had ordered a new file cabinet for Howard as his Christmas present. The company was scheduled to deliver it the day before Christmas. However, after listening to blizzard warnings on the radio, I called the company and asked them whether they could deliver it that day.

“Yes, we can do that!” the man told me.

“Well, I was just thinking that if this blizzard happens, you may not be able to get up the road tomorrow!”

He laughed and laughed. After all, it was 60 degrees. A blizzard? Come on!

The storm blew in that night, and we were snowed in for about a week. I had never seen so much snow! It was nice having a week of vacation, however!

A year or so later, we had a Broncos Blizzard–one of those night games in October when a blaster arrived. Fans turned the stadium steps into slides and were shown sliding down the steps shirtless on national TV. I think they had a little too much Christmas cheer and it wasn’t Christmas! We WON, by the way! Can’t remember which team we were playing, but I think it was one of the California teams.

Since those wild times, we’ve had some storms that topped the Blizzard of ’82. I was still teaching in 2007, and we had reached the end of the semester. It was Finals Week and my last day on campus until late January. The sky was a brilliant red that morning. And the forecast? Heavy snow to arrive sometime that evening!

Well, I went through my usual procedure. Early that morning, I boarded the bus and headed for Denver where I returned papers to students and turned in the grades. As I recall, it was a mild day. Is it really going to snow that hard? I wondered as I left the campus for the bus station. The temperatures were still mild!

The rain started sometime that evening and the next morning, we were buried in snow. I think I heard the other day that December 2007 was one of our greatest snow events over a 24-hour period! And that was the year when we had a blizzard every weekend from December through February–not bad while I was still on vacation. But it was a nightmare when I had to return to campus late January and then deal with it for over a month!

Snow storms just don’t happen around Christmas. March is our snowiest month of the year. I remember March 1990 when I was working for another law firm downtown. The snow started falling when I left the house for the bus, and it fell steadily through the day. I was working in a sky scraper, so I really couldn’t see how bad the storm was becoming. Then at 4:00, our office decided to close–way too late for anyone to get home on time! It took me a half hour struggling on foot to the bus station. Then I had to wait in a mile-long line to get on a bus. With the arrival of each new bus, we inched our way forward and stopped, waiting for the next one. Finally, I boarded a bus and actually found the seat. The bus did not arrive in town until 12:30 the next morning! I had been on the bus since 5:30 the previous afternoon! The driver had to plow through strange streets and byways in order to get us home. Whenever we got stuck in a drift, brave passengers got off the bus to push it.

“Don’t miss Happy Hour at Bennigans!” the radio announcer advised.

“Uh, I don’t think we’re going to make it!” one passenger commented.

When the bus finally arrived at the park-and-ride, a number of police jeeps awaited us there. I slid inside one of them beside the deputy driving it–my one and only ride ever in a police vehicle of any kind, and I got to ride on the front seat! He took us to a church, where a lot of busy activity was underway. Those going to Boulder were not going to make it, so the church people were putting up cots. I was only a few blocks away from my house. The snow had stopped falling, and I could walk there safely. As I opened the front door, a chorus of voices greeted me:

“Where in the hell have you been?”

Needless to say, I did not go to work the next day!

Then, of course, we experienced a huge March blizzard in 2002. We had two weeks of spring break that semester–something I didn’t mind. I can’t remember how much snow we got, but I do have pictures of it somewhere in my collection.

Snow on Christmas will be a light event this year. We’ve had temperatures in the 70s. Today it is 19. A light skiff touched the streets and the roof tops. We’re supposed to be cold and dreary. But then our weather will take a sudden swing upward. We will be in the 50s or 60s by Tuesday, with a light snow on Christmas Day!

Doctor Visit, Daniel Boone, and the Big C


Early yesterday morning, we were on our way to Denver for Howard’s all-morning appointment with the eye people and an opthamologist.

“Be prepared to spend the whole morning,” he was previously told.

I took that instruction to heart. Since I would be sitting in the waiting room most of the morning, I didn’t want to spend it staring at the wall. Waiting room magazines only go so far, especially since I’ve read most of them. The others are of no interest. So I armed myself with two companions that would see me through the morning: Daniel Boone and the Big C. (No, I didn’t take two books. I included the one with Daniel’s picture in my photo here so that he would stand out. The other book and my coffee mug and thermos were my actual companions.)

Fortunately, the drive to Denver was without incident. Denver early-morning rush hour can be a nightmare–something I’m familiar with. For thirty years, I traveled to and from Denver each day on a bus. There was once an area north of town called “the Mousetrap” where traffic would come to a halt and then inch forward. The Mousetrap is no more. But drivers must know where they are going and keep moving. There should be no sudden stops. The most difficult part of our trip was the area around the hospitals where a great deal of construction is underway. We last traveled this route over a year ago when Howard went in for his heart procedure. It was a mess then, and it is a mess now. We finally found the parking ramp and fortunately located a parking space near the elevators. Thank goodness for the wonderful angel lady who said she would show us the way. From that point on, we followed a blue line to the correct building, and we arrived on time in opthamology.

My situation was quite easy. I settled down in a comfortable chair and opened my book, How the West was Lost by Stephen Aron. I also poured coffee from the huge thermos I packed. (Never go on these excusions without coffee! I am a bear without it! Will save that story for another time.) Once settled, I glanced at the back cover of the book, reminding myself that I purchased it several years ago and was just now settling down to read it. Kentucky has become of recent interest to me since I discovered some of my ancestors pioneered the state. Funny thing about it is this: Howard and I lived in Kentucky for 2-1/2 years–first in Louisville and then in Bowling Green. Our son was born in Louisville. I didn’t know about my ancestral connections when we lived there. As the monotony of the waiting room proceeded, I was soon lost in the pages.

“Barbara–would you like to come back for your husband’s exam?”

I had just finished reading about the greediness of the early hunters with the Pennsylvania long rifles. They shot every animal in site and took more meat than they could ever store or use. And I was just embarking on the section dealing with “land speculation”–another aspect of greed–when the nurse summoned me back to reality.

“I’ll take your coffee!”

She grabbed my thermos and coffee container. I grabbed Daniel Boone, etc. and followed her down the hallway to the exam room.

“I have her coffee!” the nurse announced.

“Oh, she won’t go anywhere without that!” Howard stated.

And I have Daniel Boone, I thought.

After the exam and consultation, we were back on the blue line, heading in the direction of the parking garage. Then we were back on the interstate heading north to Wendy’s and then to Christmas shopping. Once home, I settled into my comfortable chair and looked at my book.

Now, about those greedy land speculators!